Getting a good night’s sleep is important to perform at your peak throughout the day. Service members often report experiencing sleep disorders.
So do millions of other Americans. More than one-quarter of the U.S. population report occasionally not getting enough sleep, while nearly 10 percent experience chronic insomnia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
Experts generally advise against taking sleeping pills, especially for extended periods of time.
There are, however, a few natural “slumber enhancers” that can help you nod off in time to get the recommended average of seven to nine hours of sleep per night for adults.
Here are a few things to consider consuming before bedtime, ideally in snack-size portions:
Sip tart cherry juice
Some experts have touted organic tart cherry juice as the best beverage to drink at night to induce restful sleep. According to a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2010, adults with insomnia experienced improved sleep patterns after ingesting tart cherry juice on a daily basis over a two-week period.
“The researchers suspect tart cherries’ natural benefits could be due in part to their relatively high content of melatonin – a natural antioxidant in cherries with established ability to help moderate the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Produced naturally by the body in small amounts, melatonin plays a role in inducing sleepiness at night and wakefulness during the day,” the National Sleep Foundation, based in Arlington, Va., stated in summing up the study’s findings.
Foods with tryptophan
Tryptophan, an essential amino acid, helps your body produce serotonin, which it converts to melatonin to regulate the sleep-wake cycle.
Poultry; seafood; dairy products; nuts and seeds; legumes, such as beans; brown rice; and fruit, such as bananas, all contain tryptophan.
A few slices of cheese are a great sleep-inducing snack. Drinking a glass of warm milk in the evening can also help you fall asleep. A handful of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds or nuts are also good nocturnal snacks.
Turkey is high in tryptophan, as is chicken. Among seafood choices, shrimp contains particularly high levels of tryptophan. So a small portion of shrimp or fish, such as tuna, halibut, salmon, sardines or cod, could work to promote sleep too.
Avoid caffeine, alcohol
At the same time, you should avoid the consumption of caffeine, alcohol and nicotine at least four to six hours before bedtime. You should also avoid fatty foods, such as burgers and fries, and large meals.
If you still have trouble getting a good night’s rest, and feel tired throughout the day, consider getting tested for chronic underlying conditions, such as sleep apnea.
“About 70 million Americans suffer from sleep problems; among them, nearly 60 percent have a chronic disorder. Each year, sleep disorders, sleep deprivation, and sleepiness add an estimated $15.9 billion to the national health care bill,” states the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research in Bethesda, Md.
Talk to your health care provider about how to go about getting tested for a sleep disorder, which generally involves spending a night at a research facility where sleep patterns are monitored.
Army Performance Triad
The Operation Live Well initiative provides plenty of advice on getting a good night’s sleep, as does the Army Performance Triad program. Both emphasize how important it is to focus on activity, nutrition and sleep to improve overall health and well-being.